Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Original article
Cell of origin affects tumour development and phenotype in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma
  1. Alex Y L Lee1,
  2. Claire L Dubois2,
  3. Karnjit Sarai1,
  4. Soheila Zarei1,
  5. David F Schaeffer3,
  6. Maike Sander2,
  7. Janel L Kopp1
  1. 1 Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  2. 2 Departments of Pediatrics and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
  3. 3 Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Janel L Kopp, University of British Columbia, Cellular & Physiological Sciences, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z3, Canada ; janelk{at}


Objective Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a highly aggressive tumour thought to arise from ductal cells via pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) precursor lesions. Modelling of different genetic events in mice suggests both ductal and acinar cells can give rise to PDAC. However, the impact of cellular context alone on tumour development and phenotype is unknown.

Design We examined the contribution of cellular origin to PDAC development by inducing PDAC-associated mutations, KrasG12D expression and Trp53 loss, specifically in ductal cells (Sox9CreER;KrasLSL-G12D;Trp53flox/flox (‘Duct:KPcKO ’)) or acinar cells (Ptf1aCreER;KrasLSL-G12D;Trp53flox/flox (‘Acinar:KPcKO ’)) in mice. We then performed a thorough analysis of the resulting histopathological changes.

Results Both mouse models developed PDAC, but Duct:KPcKO mice developed PDAC earlier than Acinar:KPcKO mice. Tumour development was more rapid and associated with high-grade murine PanIN (mPanIN) lesions in Duct:KPcKO mice. In contrast, Acinar:KPcKO mice exhibited widespread metaplasia and low-grade as well as high-grade mPanINs with delayed progression to PDAC. Acinar-cell-derived tumours also had a higher prevalence of mucinous glandular features reminiscent of early mPanIN lesions.

Conclusion These findings indicate that ductal cells are primed to form carcinoma in situ that become invasive PDAC in the presence of oncogenic Kras and Trp53 deletion, while acinar cells with the same mutations appear to require a prolonged period of transition or reprogramming to initiate PDAC. Our findings illustrate that PDAC can develop in multiple ways and the cellular context in which mutations are acquired has significant impact on precursor lesion initiation, disease progression and tumour phenotype.

  • tumor development
  • pancreatic cancer
  • tumor heterogeneity
  • lineage tracing

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors AYLL, CLD and JLK acquired, analysed and interpreted the experiments and performed mouse husbandry; SZ acquired data and KS contributed to the analysis of the PDAC phenotypes; AYLL and JLK wrote the manuscript; DFS provided advice on pathological classification of the tissue samples and critically reviewed the manuscript; MS and JLK obtained funding, supervised the study and critically reviewed the manuscript; JLK conceived of the study concept and design. All authors reviewed and approved of the submitted manuscript.

  • Funding National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Submit.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.